The Nines 2011. Pick Me!

UPDATE: 6:53pm Hey I just received the topics for the Nines and I took a look. Guess what? It’s much more practical and personal this year, compared to 2010 and to what I was thinking. The topics are about family, personal fitness, working with staff, gracefulness with difficult people, etc and NOT even remotely about the subject matter below. So, if I decide to submit my video(s), then it will probably be NOTHING AT ALL like the wild ranting and raving that happened this morning after I drank too much coffee. If it was, Todd would probably reject it. And rightly so. But you are welcome to read the blog post anyway.

ORIGINAL: The speakers for The Nines are now open for nomination. Want to pick me?

Shrek donkey pick me 1

I really like The Nines. I enjoyed speaking last year. I love the way in which this online event takes place – free and available to all. But what worries me, and why I would like to get my voice in the midst this year, [AGAIN], is that almost all of the speakers are coming out of the old church paradigm, giving motivational talks about how to keep an outdated model of church/ministry running a little longer, getting that extra mile before conking out and giving way to a global reality that is currently being ignored.

Church as we have known it is passing away. CCM. Publishing. Seminary. Conferences. All passing away or morphing into something different. There is a new paradigm. But this process is taking longer in the USA due to the residual church which is still packing a punch and, unlike in many countries, has the luxury of existing a little bit longer.

I believe there is a lot USA can learn from the global church, especially in areas of the world where the church is growing rapidly and ministering widely in all areas of life. There is some serious catching up to do if Americans want to contribute to the bigger scene, which they have done for many years.

I also worry that this lag time will hinder the global Christian movement. Many Americans, turning up overseas to bless ministries and start new ones, have no idea how to operate in the new paradigm and they take up too many resources in forcing the old paradigm to work. Not only this, but the structures they start are usually the first ones to be dismantled by governments who are not friendly to Christianity and even less so to anything that smells American.

Last year at the Nines, my talk tackled the recession and how we can harness the potential of voluntary poverty to fine-tune our ministry strategy, returning to Luke 10 to discover the way of Jesus and his disciples – principles of ministry that actually work better in a resource-poor environment. I filmed the video at a semi-legal punk squat in Germany where young people live in converted fire engines and UPS vehicles, finding a way to live together sustainably. I suggested the recession could teach us how to live together sustainably and fulfill our mission. I still believe that.

The nines event

A few things have happened to me since last year:

1. I have been around the world, literally, and I have seen some new stuff that really challenged me. [Ask me about China]. Although I want to stay connected with the old, I don’t want to waste my time extending its shelf-life if I can better serve God by promoting and participating in what He is doing now.

2. I participated in the Lausanne World Congress in Cape Town and was able to realign my ambitions and missional direction into the flow of the global church.

3. I have witnessed a revival of missional micro-business and social enterprise, in both mission, monastic and church structures, that I feel is more connected to the early days of Protestant mission, and modeled in the New Testament, and I believe will help us all move into successful, sustainable ministry in these times of recession. The Moravians did it. William Carey did it. We need to do it also.

Let’s use the recession as a time of re-orientation and recalibration RATHER than ignoring it and just asking for MORE MONEY to do the same thing which has suddenly got a lot more expensive.

This year, if I get nominated [hint hint] I want to start on the assumption that the old paradigm is already over and the new has begun. How do we do church NOW?

Church as we have known it is not the first option for the next generation. Neither is it an affordable option. It is not sustainable in the long term. It was birthed out of surplus and nurtured in a favorable environment. It is supported financially by “tithing” which is a doctrine under suspicion by the next generation, who, like some Reformation movements, consider it heretical and a poor substitute for biblical generosity and having “all things in common” [koinonia].

Seminaries are in trouble. They depend on accessibility to easy credit for student loans which should not be an assumption in these tough financial times. Having a “high student count” is not a sign of success. My guess is that most of those M.Div students will not walk into the paid positions they are training for. Many will return to Seminary to work on a doctorate to get the competitive edge. Having racked up 7 years of debt, students with overseas missions aspirations will never find the support to pay back their loans, let alone their high monthly support required to live a similar life in a more expensive country with a weak American dollar. There are not enough paid positions awaiting Seminary graduates and the pay is not sufficient to eliminate their loans in a reasonable time. It is more common now for young people training for ministry to avoid Seminaries and Bible Colleges or not consider them an affordable option.

The ideal of the executive ministry speaker who wears nice clothes and flies to nice places to say in nice hotels and eat at nice restaurants while speaking to nice people who pay him a nice honorarium to do so . . . and then returns to his nice home . .  belongs to a different world. That world has passed away.

Come on people. The carnival is over. Lets admit it and talk about how to start again.

Carnivalisover 4

The Christian music industry as we have supported it, is over. I have been talking with the people who started it and they tell me its over. I believe them.

The Christian publishing industry, as we have enjoyed it over our lifetime, is over. It will regroup. It will adapt, slowly. But it will never be the same. And the opportunity provided by the old-media to new-media publishing transition will be open to new players. This is already happening.

The church planting movement, in its ecclesiocentic and unholistic form, has played out its song and is now doing an unrequested encore. If the old models of church are not working properly in our own countries, why export them to places that are already experiencing successful multiplication with simpler and more sustainable models?

The emerging church movement, despite continuing the conversation on eschatology, ecclesiology and ethics in the USA, has peaked, matured, in some cases failed, in others succeeded, has been adopted and co-opted and has run its course. Many of new movements among the next generation are starting from a different place under a different label. I get asked for book recommendations on the the new thing but nothing comes to mind. But its reality – I see it!

Prayer meetings are focused on making our outdated methods work better. Maybe God wants us to change what we are doing before he blesses it?

Mission-shaped mission, as it happening around the world, does not look like traditional missions any more than mission-shaped church looks like traditional church. Why do we continue to look for the same thing? We seek David, but end up with Saul. God teach us how to see.

Movements happen on the fringe. But we continually aim at the mainstream. At the same demographic. Which gets smaller and smaller each year. We fight over the one sheep because nobody wants the 99 who don’t fit our ministry profile.

The rise of monastic-style communities and missional social enterprise centers in the Protestant world are providing a new way of doing training, business, missions and whole-life discipleship that are replacing the role of seminaries, large churches, and Christian conferences. But you will not hear that from leaders of seminaries, pastors of large churches or from organizers of Christian conferences. Obviously. McDonald’s does not sell pizzas.

I saw American missionaries overseas sell their washing machines and move back to USA. There are many reasons why, but nobody is talking about missionary attrition. Our best missionary families, who know the language and culture, are returning due to lack of funds and in their place we are sending teams of teenagers to visit mission pilgrimage sites on a 3 week tourist trip. Something has gone wrong.

David grey where money runs out

We have missionaries who are living better than the people who support them back home. Is it too much to ask for a voluntary asceticism to match the mission call? Can we talk about creative living arrangements? Sustainable lifestyles? Greater co-operation with other agencies rather than duplication and repetition? Of course. But maybe the problem is a lack of sustainable models in the home country that they can draw from when they go overseas?

If Americans want to play in the sandbox in global missions and sustainable holistic church ministry then they need to listen to what the majority world is already discovering and implementing. I am sorry if that is hard to hear. But I don’t know a nicer way to say it.

In Hong Kong I asked a Seminary student what Chinese theologians he was reading. He said none. His Seminary only offers Western books – mostly American. I asked him the reason for that, considering the church in America is losing ground each year while the Asian church continues to move forward. He didn’t know. Is it possible the American church is just a whole lot better at self-promotion and image-maintenance than other countries? Or is there some substance behind it? Does the American church have a voice among themselves and also to the world?

Last year I visited the global emerging church in about 25 countries on 5 different continents. I don’t have the full picture but I have a bigger one than I used to have. I gathered a few stories. I met some godly young people who challenged my paradigm of doing ministry. I learned some stuff. I saw some stuff.

Sorry if I am ranting. Or sounding angry. And you know I love America – my wife is American and so are our kids. But stuff is bubblin’ . . .

Nominate me and Ill tell you what I saw. You will find my name WAY WAY down on the list, just below Harold Camping. ;-]

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

35 Comments

  • You hit on too many things to respond to. While seminaries in the West have inched towards academic captivity, there is a growing need for training in biblical study, interpretation, and theology in the global emerging church. I have heard an estimate that in East Asia 10,000 churches a year are lost to cults. It seems there is a need for a balance between the organic, movemental nature of devotion to Christ and the stabilizing impact of the institutions. Movements are incredible, but unless there is something comes behind it bringing deeper discipleship and leadership development, then it sputters out.
    I teach in a seminary and fully recognize many weaknesses in it, but I wonder if it is a matter of making adjustments rather than ending the whole project.
    Your comments on Americans living too comfortably and relying on support are tough to hear, but needed.

  • Do you think there is a need for Christians to still attend seminary? I’ve been wrestling with the idea of starting an M.Div. I want to increase my understanding of the bible more but I’m not real excited about requistite courses aimed at managing church structures and functioning as a traditional pastor.

  • I think seminary is still needed, but it needs to be done in a way that makes sense. The current model in many ways spoon feeds students so that they can spoon feed others. What we need to reintroduce into American education as a whole (I say American because I honestly don’t know enough about the rest of the world) is teaching how to think. I am convinced that much of what Andrew is bringing up in the post relates back to the fact that we rarely teach how to think critically. We see this in the church, and in all stages of education.
    Seminary can be huge, so long as we are teaching how to think critically and interact with the material, and make it financially sustainable.

  • Mark, I have a friend who just translated the Bible – he needed to go to Seminary, in my opinion. Seminary for him was a wise investment. Also if someone wants to teach in a Seminary setting, or University setting, then the credentials are important.
    And I really enjoyed my time at some of the American Seminaries I went to. Fuller School of World Mission was great – i wish I could have afforded to continue.
    But most ministry positions in pastoral and mission settings do not need a lengthy formal education process and in fact {see research by Christian Schwartz, Natural Church Development] might actually hinder the process if it takes too long.
    The financial commitment and loan repayment process are an issue in poorer countries.
    The simple church structures that are now the norm for countries like India and China also do not need a formal seminary experience. It seems the more complicated models of church promoted in the West require a more sophisticated educational process – perhaps that works in the favor of the Seminaries who promote that model.

  • I’ve not attended seminary. But my observation as someone who grew up in the American Evangelical scene is that there’s a Seminary/Institutional Church complex that tries to sustain itself but isn’t sustainable longterm. It seems like there’s a conflict of interest. Seminaries need students -> Potential seminary students think in terms of a professional career focused ministry where they are paid by a church -> Seminaries require $$ to attend -> students borrow money to attend seminary and thus need some sort of paid career in order to pay off those loans. You see the cycle there? Seminaries aren’t going to tell people that maybe ministry as a career isn’t the best approach. They need people who think that ministry is going to be a career in order to keep the machine running. And thus they breed the sort of folks who think of ministry as a way to earn their daily bread.
    It seems like a better approach is to have people learn a skill that they can use to obtain money to live on (Paul made tents). Ministry then becomes a way of life within that context instead of becoming a means of making money.

  • I hear what you saying. Where I live there are still large box churches everywhere and the organic seems mostly non existant. I guess I feel called locally and I’m trying to rethink what that would look like.
    I will probably continue with the occasional online seminary course to explore topics of interest. They are quite expensive though, and I wish they were more affordable, and year round.

  • Andrew…
    We sent you (or at least tried to) an invitation for this year… but we never heard back. 🙂
    You can get ahold of me at @toddrhoades on twitter.
    Thanks!
    Todd
    (from The NINES)

  • Andrew, you said, “Many of new movements among the next generation are starting from a different place under a different label. I get asked for book recommendations on the the new thing but nothing comes to mind. But its reality – I see it!”
    So, are there any of those whom can afford access sharing their stories online?

  • Hi Todd. Nothing in the email box. tallskinnykiwi@gmail.com is the email to use. I got a tweet from someone this morning who nominated me and just discovered the lineup. I was wondering when things would be kicking off.
    Hey. Thanks for thinking of me. If you already have enough speakers lined up then I am more than willing to stand back and give some new people the chance to The Nines. Absolutely no offense. Just take my name off the list.

  • Scotty, some of the movements happen in countries where a strong Christian identity would be harmful or unproductive so they flow in a different stream, under different terms and names. Some of them happen in countries (like USA) where they can do more good under a more neutral category, like “social enterprise” and they have chosen not to identify as emerging church movements. Sometimes the ‘church’ piece of the puzzle comes after the other missional, outreach, business, pieces have come together. Sometimes it barely comes at all. Sometimes it is enough to be the church in their city and not intensively brand the particular gathering.
    Access is becoming universal but choosing to hold off on the branding/naming part of a ministry can be wiser than throwing the baby to the lions.

  • Andrew…
    Your post resonates deeply with me, but I have very little experience in these matters. Some of your comments expose some of the reasons why I recently resigned my pastoral position at a small rural church in TN. Along with Scotty, I was wondering if you could recommend a blogger or two who could give us a little more insight into the kinds of movements to which you refer. (If you don’t want to post, an e-mail would be great, too!)
    Thanks greatly.

  • Thanks Chris. You could start with my own blog – the one you are reading now. You often have to read between the lines and I do not always say what country they are working in. I have probably covered hundreds of movements but never at the same time.

  • Thank you, Andrew. I understand. And I know that it is hard for many of those who are working under the ‘social enterprise’ banner or just being the church in their city/community to communicate what they are doing to their brothers and sisters coming from more traditional church settings.
    Shannon, your family and Baba all send out email/newsletters. Others as well I’m sure. Just wanting to pray into what He is up to and learn from the stories of others. Guess I’ll keep tracking you here. 🙂

  • you’re #31 with 52 votes on this list. And Harold Camping isn’t there at all…
    I’m still thinking about what could happen in Belgium if we wouldn’t fall back on a catholic culture that doesn’t exist, nor on imported evangelicalism that never worked for most people here… I’m going to reread this post and think on it while I try to find a playlist for when I’ll be opening for the psalters in some officially squatted small cinema… But that also works only for the 5 christian anarchists that do exist in the benelux…
    Oh Lord, make me an endemic Christ-follower… A real one…

  • I’ve said for a long time that if the institutional churches in North America would create pipelines to both give and receive to/from the organic movements on the global margins, we would all be better off. We have resource that we can share, if we would do so respectfully and not as colonizers, and they have passion, expertise, and flexibility that they could share with us. Each movement could seed the other. That is what we are trying to do from our church, Gateway, and it is working well. Our folks are starting to get that, while we are part of an institutional church, we can still be part of what God is doing around the world and we can help it along a bit.

  • As I read the first half dozen or so replys, I noticed alot being said about going to semenary and how it could be expensive yet worth it for specific reasons. I will grant you that to translate the Bible, one would have to have an education in the Biblical languages, yet translating the Bible is not something that is reaching the people on the street who would not think about reading the Word of God, until they are exposed to the Love of God being demonstrated by the Body of Christ. I have often encouraged the School of the Holy Spirit. We desperately need to disciple those coming into the body, so we do not loose them to cultism, yet how would this be accomplished? may I submit, by returning to the original purpose of the “Church”, placing the child heirs under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father. For the original twelve, this was about three and one half years, yet when the scattering occured, the world was turned upright in two years. Once the child is discipled properly, he should not be corraled, rather sent. Jesus did not say stay, he said go. Go where? Where ever the Holy Spirit guides you. 1John 2:27, tells us we do not need a man to teach us once we have become of age and are anointed, sorry but my brother-in-law was taught out of believing God Word at a seminary, so I do not put much stock in them. I am not saying they are worthless or even not needed, yet where did they originate anyway? I appologize if I have said anything that may have offended anyone, yet it is going to happen sooner or later, if not from me, some other unlearned individual that has been with Jesus.

  • Andrew – I was with Rick McKinley tonight and we talked about seminaries and their future and about how perhaps the local church will be the seminaries of the future somehow….. In regards to the church, I think I am more optimistic about the church, at least in the USA. There sure seems to be such wonderful things happening with new churches being launched and continuing, churches not quite as traditional as in the past and rethinking things, but still growing and people coming to faith who weren’t Christians before. It seems as I travel around the USA I am gaining more optimism about the local church and the future, not less. Although I think it is causing some revising to how we go about things and some denominations dying out that have not made changes etc. But none the less, structured growing churches seem to be all around. So I get more optimistic here in the USA about it from seeing what is happening. Anyway, loved the blog post and so glad you were able to speak at our church earlier this year and hang out! It was wonderful having you with us and I am an Andrew Jones fan and look forward to what you say on The Nines!

  • Morning time here in Germany. Thanks Dan. LOVED speaking at your cool vintage church last year, even though I had to do it 3 times in one day [wheeew!!!] and its great to see your EC book still having a great effect around the world. If i remember rightly,it was the first book on that subject that had a huge amount of countries requesting its distribution and translation.
    Lots of good stuff going on in USA. It was fun to drive across last year and enjoy 3 months of seeing what is happening. Every country seems to have unique gifts for the whole body.

  • I think you need to drink more coffee… 🙂
    I went to seminary, did the Pastor thing and now no longer doing it – at least for a while anyway. Part of my journey so far has been the recognition that after 4 years of study I am the (not so) proud holder of the worlds most useless degree. Yes I learned some good stuff, but seriously, in the real world it did very little to prepare me for meaningful, sustainable ministry; and of course it is pretty much useless in anything other than a standard church-based ministry. If I had my time over I would not have gone down this path. I still want to help people find Jesus, but not like this.

  • I too would like to know more about China,,,,since I am headed there for a decent length of time.

  • I voted for you… did you vote for me? I am just trying to beat out Paul Washer… = )All I want is braggin’ rights. Already beat out Todd Friel and James White. LOL!
    Oh, was this a serious blog post, I only skimmed it to get to the comments. = )

  • We have over thought “how to do” church. Why can’t we teach others to love God and others more than ourselves through the way we live? We take on too much, I believe, that God wants to do Himself. Yet we want “our church” to get the credit. We won’t say that, but its true. Who the hell do we think we are? Lol.

  • yes, the power and ability to do ministry comes from the Holy Spirit not a “christian” education. Formal education is valuable but not necessary for ministry.

  • What a breath of fresh air you are, Andrew, honestly. I’m glad I happened on your page today.
    @cathryn Thomas – too funny. 🙂
    We should focus less on institutions and structures and more on connecting with ourselves and with people in honest, consistent and just/equitable/peaceful/vitalizing/restorative…ways. And when we are spread too thin and far, we aren’t really able to be fully present, nor deeply local.
    Probably the biggest inhibitor for me among “Christians” (generalizing here) in the USA is the lack of focus on and work to undo racism in this country.

  • Actually, I’m not sure who the “we” in my post is. 🙂 And sorry, if it sounds too preachy/presumptive.
    Peace

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